Evolutionary Theory and Ethnic Conflict

Evolutionary Theory and Ethnic Conflict

Evolutionary Theory and Ethnic Conflict

Evolutionary Theory and Ethnic Conflict

Synopsis

James, Goetze, and their contributors provide a scholarly attempt to evaluate the role that evolved dispositions and psychological mechanisms may play in the formation of ethnic groups, the outbreak of ethnic group conflict, and the design of strategies for preventing and resolving group conflicts.

Excerpt

In April 1997, Patrick James and David Goetze organized and conducted a workshop entitled “Evolutionary Theory and Its Critics: Toward a Greater Understanding of Ethnic Conflict.” This gathering occurred at Utah State University under the auspices of the Merrill Chair Endowment. James and Goetze invited a distinguished group of scholars to wrestle with a general and challenging question: Does evolutionary theory offer any new insight and understanding regarding the issues of ethnic identity, ethnic conflict, or its management? The choice of scholars was not random. Some individuals warranted inclusion because of their long-standing competence in explicating issues of ethnicity and because of their interest in—but a relative lack of exposure to—recent developments and strains of thought in the evolutionary paradigm. Other individuals received invitations to the workshop because they were fairly steeped in the evolutionary literature, had devoted much of their careers to addressing the role of evolutionary approaches to social and political phenomena, and had shown past scholarly interest in how ethnicity might be informed by evolutionary approaches. Within relevant ranges, we promoted variation in the background of the participants and were curious about how they would react to some common stimuli, not the least of which was the aforementioned question about evolutionary theory and ethnicity.

In addition, the entire group was exposed to a reading list compiled from knowledge of the workshop organizers and consultation with well-known scholars who work at the interstices of evolutionary ideas and social behavior. Among the readings all participants were asked to peruse were Tooby and Cosmide's (1992) already classic article “The Psychological Foundations of Culture,” in which the authors excoriate what they call the . . .

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